Execs weigh in on what Fernando Tatis deal means for Mets' Francisco Lindor

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
John Harper
·5 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Francisco Lindor jersey swap with No. 12 art
Francisco Lindor jersey swap with No. 12 art

At first glance, it would seem that 22-year old shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr.’s eye-popping deal with the San Diego Padres -- 14 years, $340 million -- has set the bar for what it could take for the Mets to sign Francisco Lindor to a contract extension.

Of course, it all depends how you break it down, since Tatis’ deal averages $24 million a year, which the Mets would happily pay right now to Lindor over 10 years.

And because Lindor is 27, five years older than Tatis, 10 years seems a more likely length of contract, much as Manny Machado received as a 26-year old free agent two years ago.

Nevertheless, baseball executives I spoke with on Thursday say they expect the $340 million figure to become something of a target number for Lindor.

“He’ll probably ask for $350 million now that it’s out there,” one MLB team exec said. “But what’s the length? If it's 10 years, the AAV (average annual value) would be much higher, but their camp will make the case that Lindor is more accomplished, with a longer track record as one of the most talented players in the game.

“The question is how far will the Mets go to keep him from getting to free agency (next winter). They can counter by pointing out it’s almost two separate contracts for Tatis, the first four years for $40 million and then 10 years for $300 million, when he’ll be close to the same age as Lindor is now.

“You also have to look at it like the Mets have some leverage, knowing there are going to be a handful of All-Star caliber shortstops available as free agents. But because they made a big trade for Lindor, I imagine they will feel pressure to get an extension done at some point.”

Let’s take those thoughts one by one:

- It’s true, according to reports the Tatis contract is structured so that he’ll make the big money over the final 10 years, or at the point he would have become a free agent. That helps the Padres, as by then they’ll be done with Yu Darvish’s expensive contract and have one-year left on Eric Hosmer’s $144 million deal.

In a sense, then, the exec is right as the final 10 years/$300 million becomes more of a true comp for Lindor, and the same deal that Machado received.

- It’s also true that if the Mets decide their shortstop’s asking price is too high, they could wait for free agency and the spectacular shortstop class that is on course to be available, including Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, Trevor Story, and Javier Baez, in addition to Lindor.

To sign someone other than Lindor, however, would mean giving up a second-round draft pick, something the Mets would rather not do, as Steve Cohen is on record saying he thinks it’s vital to beef up the franchise’s farm system.

- Finally, there does figure to be significant pressure on the Mets to lock up Lindor, especially since he has emerged as the only big-splash addition of Cohen’s first offseason as owner.

And while it surely makes sense to see how Lindor handles everything that comes with playing in New York before committing to a mega-deal, especially after he failed to put up his usual offensive numbers during the 60-game season in 2020, it’s also a gamble in that the closer he gets to free agency, the higher his price will climb if he’s playing well.

Which way should the Mets go? For comparison purposes it’s worth remembering the Dodgers went ahead and locked up Mookie Betts, whom they acquired in a Lindor-like trade last February, to a 12-year, $365 million deal before the season began. Though they did so in July, after the pandemic-shortened season was pushed back three-plus months.

In any case, it worked out perfectly for the Dodgers, as Betts showcased his spectacular overall game in October to help the Dodgers end their championship drought of 32 years.

Betts was 27 at the time, the same age as Lindor (he turns 28 in November), and he got a deal worth approximately $30 million per for 12 years, so perhaps that length is a target for the Mets’ new shortstop as well.

He hasn’t put up the offensive numbers to match Betts, who is considered perhaps the best player in baseball these days along with Mike Trout. But Lindor plays spectacular defense at shortstop, which has to be an important part of the equation.

“I think Betts’ $30 million a year is still the more relevant number (for Lindor),” a second team exec said. “Age and term are what makes the Tatis number stand out, but the AAV is more relevant. The $340 million might be looked at as a target number for a shortstop, but Lindor is going to want more than $24 million a year.

“So I think $30 million (a year) is the number. Lindor might look to stretch that beyond 10 years but is anybody going to want to be paying a shortstop that kind of money at age 38 or 39? Tatis is going to be, what, 35 or 36 when his deal is done.”

If the execs are right, then 10 years and $300 million figures to to be closer to the final number for Lindor, even if Tatis’ total of $340 million now becomes he shoots for.

OddsMoney LinePoint SpreadTotal Points
Washington
+135--
NY Mets
-164--